An operation targeting child prostitution recovered six underage teenage girls, ages 15 to 17, from Bay Area streets and resulted in the arrest of a large number of pimps and adult prostitutes, law enforcement officials said Monday.
Four of the girls were working as prostitutes in Oakland, one in San Francisco and one in San Rafael, FBI assistant special agent in charge Michael Gavin said at a news conference at the Hayward Police Department.
The girls were recovered in the local prong of a nationwide enforcement action called Operation Cross Country, a joint operation the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an advocacy group. The operation was carried out in 57 cities around the country between Wednesday and Saturday.
Alameda Patch looked at the problem of underage prostitution, and the efforts of local nonprofit agencies such as MISSEY to help teenage sex workers, in a five-part series from Bay City News Serivce published last year.
Juvenile prostitution has reached epidemic proportions in Oakland, with some girls startinting to work as prostitutes when they are only 12 or 13, according to that series. The ""Track," a section of International Boulevard in the middle of the city, is one area known as a hub for prostitution.
You may read the series here:
In the recent Bay Area operation, law enforcement authorities arrested a total of 10 pimps and 65 adult prostitutes in addition to rescuing the six girls, FBI spokesman Peter Lee said.
Nationwide, 79 children were rescued and 104 pimps were arrested, Gavin said. He said the underage girls who were rescued will be provided with support services aimed at permanently removing them from the prostitution trade.
"We want to give them help so they don't get back to that life," Gavin said.
Hayward police Chief Diane Urban said many child prostitutes are runaways who are blackmailed into that way of life by pimps who take advantage of them.
"Many of them had a fight with a parent or a bad day at school and they fall into prostitution accidentally," Urban said.
"I can assure you that young people don't get involved in it because it's a great job."
The Oakland nonprofit Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth, or MISSSEY, offers training for new volunteers who are interested in educating others about the problem of underage prostitution.
Bay Area News Service contributed to this article. Portions copyright © 2012 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.